The Oldest Object in The Oldest Thing in The Oldest House – Part One
“I’d already found a (silver) dime up on the first floor. A ‘roll away’: Nothing. We find money all the time. That dime was 1917 but that wasn’t its roll away date. Too worn. Probably rolled off in nineteen FIFTY-seven. Didn’t pay nothing (no attention) to it; just put it in my pocket.
“Anyway: I’d boxed through that chamber first (packed up the attic chamber into boxes) then went up to the barn at break (fifteen minutes at 9:30 AM). I knew there was a lot to do for that (the attic chamber). That’s why we start at seven. That is: I START. They start too but whine a lot. In this place it was a whole day just on what I could SEE. So they’re still stumbling around up there. Most of ‘em. So I know I got to strip that cellar when I go back down. And I should get those boxes out of the chamber too. These old spaces: You gotta get them CLEARED OUT before you can crawl them and FIND the old stuff. Can’t see. Can’t move around all that crud even when I get it all neatly in the boxes stacked up in the center. GET IT OUT I say. I do a lot better creeping around when the spaces are ‘EMPTY’ to the average eye. Anyway; I go back down and tell Teddy to come down and hump the chamber boxes down to the first floor. I’m gonna strip the cellar and bring all that crud UP (to the first floor). So I go down and start. Pretty soon Bunk comes down instead of Teddy. That wasn’t a surprise.
“Teddy: He don’t want to hump those boxes DOWN. Down’s actually harder than UP but you wouldn’t know that for the first few times (estate clean outs). Anyway. I know Bunk and all he did was tell Teddy he’d ‘do it’ and Teddy; he’s glad to get out of it. So I see Bunk and he sees me and no one says anything and he goes up and down and I go down and up. I put the cellar crud in the left room and he shoots the boxes into the right room. I got the long walk because I got to go around the north side to get into that left front room. He’s coming down straight to the right and into the sunny room. But I get it cleared.
“There weren’t that much. You know; some pile-on and old food storage. Just the HOLE with THAT. So it comes up easy and I get to the shelves. Now I gotta leave the built-in. You know; part of the house they say. But I can take the free standing. OR… the MADE TO BE free standing. So I see two of those just tacked in. So I free them and they’re real early but plainer than JANE. I take them up and stand down there trying to figure if I can get away with anymore. They’re ALL EARLY. But… they built ‘em in. If I take ‘em they’ll have to come all apart AND will leave a big scar so….
“So just then down comes Bunk. Course he’s got it empty. He says. And of course he knows that (what I’ll think of him telling me that) and he knows WHAT’S NEXT. So I give it up and say OH GO AHEAD. And he’s like: Sheepish. And I’m like I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE HERE FOR and WHAT DO YOU THINK I’M DOING ANYWAY BUT GO AHEAD. So he’s half way down the (cellar) stairs and we talk over the shelves and he’s shining (his flashlight) round and I see he doesn’t have a head lamp (flashlight attached to his forehead like cross country skier’s use). We all use those and I got mine ON (actually turned on) AND a flashlight as usual. So I just file that because I now know he won’t SEE well up there and that fine because that’s MY CHAMBER anyway. AND I say “THIS IS MY HOLE” to him too. So he says he knows and shines around from the stairs and I go over and say get out of my way. He steps up the stairs and says am I sure I don’t mind (him crawling the attic chamber). So I say GO FOR IT, step up onto the stairs and face the stone work with my head lamp.
“I put the flashlight down on the stairs, take my gloves off and then start feel along the top of the stonework where the floor beam rests; that space. I can’t see anything even with the head lamp. BUT I CAN FEEL. So Bunk watches two steps above. And I got both hands sliding slowly with just finger tips; going along to my right. Sure enough something MOVES under ‘em. So I reach it up and it’s a coin. I knew it. Bunk, of course, sees it come up too. I put it in my lamp (put it under the light of the head lamp) and it’s 1807. Penny. WORN.
“Bunk he see THAT and we meet eyes and his little paw comes out and I pause there in his eyes and just slip that penny into my pocket. Then I put my fingers right back up where they were and sure enough the next second I hit a second coin. This one I get up and in the light and it’s a penny too; 1847. Large cent in real good shape. Bunk: I wasn’t looking at but I could feel him looking and that he was about to GO so to speak. So I rolled that penny in my finger tips and looked up at his eyes and he takes his eye off the penny and into mine but he don’t put his hand out this time. He looks at that penny in my fingers again. I reach into my pocket and bring back that other penny. I got both in my hand.
“And look at him looking at me and the TWO pennies. Then he looks just at me and I can see he’s pretty much beside himself. Then he looks up at that beam space at the top of the stone work. Then back at me. I say ‘pretty GOOD huh.’ and he nods. Then I say, looking down at the pennies in my hand; ‘the ONLY PERSON whose touched these in ONE HUNDRED YEARS… at least… is ME. Right now. JUST me. And if you hadn’t weaseled down here you’d never know it. I don’t know if I should LET YOU TOUCH THEM. Oh he fidgets at THAT. Then I hand ‘em to him. Oh don’t he JUST… WANT ‘EM. So he’s got ‘em in his little pink paw and looks at me.
“So I say FIFTY BUCKS. And he’s WHAT? And I say I FOUND ‘EM; I don’t want ‘em. He goes ‘FIFTY BUCKS?’. I go that’s cheap. He says ‘CHEAP?’. I go OK ONE HUNDRED. He looks at me, then at the pennies and then puts ‘em in his pocket. ‘Fifty bucks. You sure you don’t want ‘em?’. I FOUND THEM I say. That was IT for me. What do I want carry them around for? Here: You can have the dime too.
“Then he goes up in that chamber. He’s up there for an hour crawling around with no head lamp trying to find a penny. I got a good laugh out of it. I tell him I’ll go up there after your done messing around do it right. But you stay out of HERE. This is MY hole.”.
“He’s still got those pennies I know. He’ll show ‘em to his girlfriends, show ‘em to his wife. Show ‘em to his children and show ‘em to his GRAND CHILDREN too. Show ‘em off his whole life. Finding those. I FOUND ‘EM. Every time he shows ‘em he’ll remember THAT TOO. I’ll be TWICE DEAD before he finishes showing those off but he’ll always know that I found ‘em even when I’m twice dead.
“They didn’t have no money down there. Didn’t need any money. Just bartered. A coin was rare and what do you do with it. Rum was the first coin. YOU COULD DRINK THAT. That’s why those pennies were there. PUT AWAY safe. What were they going to do with ‘em? Go to the MALL? That (1807) worn one was used along time. Nobody started using coins much on these farms until after the Civil War. Didn’t HAVE any coins either. Those two pennies is probably all they had. Saved up huh.
"Anyway. I got rid of Bunk. He give up hunting for gold after an hour. I went up there and first thing I got was a piece of busted looking glass. Leaning right up behind the little fireplace. Bunk never touched that. He saw it. But he don’t KNOW. They saved that piece of glass. They USED IT. And then if they didn’t want it they could swapped it. But they never did. One of them Indian women; squaw. Can you still say that? Anyway. Coming to the door. She’d have given TWO of her handmade baskets just to get the busted piece of glass. And wouldn’t I want to find those two baskets in there. But that didn’t happen. I got the glass though. Bunk; he don’t know to do this. He don’t know to READ the objects. That glass wasn’t an accident up there. Who ever puts a piece of a busted looking glass (mirror) in an attic? He thought that was a busted mirror. He wouldn’t know a looking glass if he was standing in front of one. Could be a Queen Anne looking glass and he’d think it was a mirror and tell you so. Anyway: I finally get my hole to myself except I can here Bunk looking for pennies WAY up there in my chamber."